How Long Does It Take to Adopt a Child?

It varies depending on the situation but don't let the wait discourage you.

Sara R. Ward May 10, 2019
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Find out which factors affect the timing of your adoption.

The first time we adopted, I remember one of my initial questions I asked the adoption agency was, “How long does it take to adopt a child?” I was concerned about the timing, and I didn’t want to wait an unreasonable amount of time, which is how every adoptive family feels when they begin.

I quickly learned that the answer depends on many factors, some of which are not in my control nor in the adoption agency’s control. If you are eager to find out how long it will take to adopt your child, here are some of the variables that will affect the timing of your adoption.

Your Adoption Plan

One thing that will impact the length of your adoption wait is your adoption plan. The more flexible you are to adopting different races, abilities, or ages, the more likely you will be able to adopt sooner. On the other hand, if you limit the race, age, or ability level of the child you wish to adopt, then, typically, the longer you will have to wait. The longest wait times for adoptive families usually occur with healthy, Caucasian newborns.

Keep in mind that it is normal for many adoptive parents to have preferences and you should not feel pressure to accept an adoption situation you are not comfortable with. Your adoption decision is for a lifetime and you must be okay with living with the outcome of those choices. However, if you are too limiting in your preferences, then a long wait is a possibility.

The time it can take to adopt a child varies depending on the situation. But even if it takes a while the wait is worth it.

How Long Does It Take to Adopt a Child Through Domestic Adoption?

Another thing that will impact the timing of your adoption is the type of adoption you pursue. The three kinds of adoption are domestic, international, and foster adoption.

Domestic adoption is also known as private infant adoption. Domestic adoption involves going through a home study and becoming matched with birth parents in the United States. After the baby is born, depending on state laws, the birth parents sign consent forms, which relinquishes their rights. Once they consent to the adoption, the baby is placed with the adoptive parents, who then pursue finalization of the adoption.

Domestic adoption often has a long wait but not always. The wait can be anywhere from several months to several years after your home study, depending on if you are matched with a birth mother and how much exposure your profile gets to potential birth parents. If you already are matched with a birth mother when you began the process, then the timing of your adoption will go very quickly and may only be a few months. However, if you are unable to connect with any birth parents, or if you have had several failed adoptions, then your wait may be extended.

One thing that may affect your wait is your advertising budget. Those who spend a higher amount on getting their adoption profile in several places may have a better chance of getting matched sooner. Putting your family information on an Adoption.com profile is another avenue of connecting with birth parents. Although advertising isn’t the only way to connect with birth parents. Getting your story out into the online space through social media can also help spread the word that you are adopting.

Another consideration that may impact your timing is how many active adoptive families there are at an adoption agency versus how many adoptions an agency completed last year. You’ll be able to see what the ratio is between active families versus adoptions by comparing those two numbers. If an agency has a 4-1 ratio between active families versus adoptions and another agency has a 2-1 ratio, you’ll have a better chance at the 2-1 ratio agency. That being said, there are times when agencies may be working with many birth families and the wait may be relatively short. Most of it depends on how quickly you are matched with birth parents and whether they choose to go through with the adoption.

The other thing that will affect the timing of your adoption is how quickly you can get picked by a birth mother. Keep in mind there is no way to control how quickly you will or won’t get matched. Do your best to share your story with friends and family, and remember that even if you share your adoption story, you still might not be able to connect with the right adoption situation at the right time. There is only so much control that you can have over the situation and waiting is often part of the journey.

The time it can take to adopt a child varies depending on the situation. But even if it takes a while the wait is worth it.

How Long Does It Take to Adopt a Child When it Comes to Foster Adoption?

Foster adoption is another type of adoption that can vary greatly in its timing. Foster adoption involves becoming a licensed foster parent to children who have been temporarily taken out of their homes. The goal of foster care is the reunification of children with their parents, but because that is not always possible, some children will become available for adoption.

In order to adopt through the foster care system, you will first have to become licensed foster parents. You will need to follow the regulations of your state’s foster care system, which typically involves pre-service training, a home study, background checks, and a home visit.

Waiting children are available through foster care and typically have the shortest wait time for adoption since their parental rights have already been relinquished. Most of these children are older, may be part of a sibling group, or may have special needs.

Even though foster adoption has many children who need permanent homes, fewer families desire to adopt older children and sibling groups. If families have to wait on parental rights becoming terminated, this could take years. Although the child might be in your home as a foster child during that time, the adoption cannot proceed toward finalization until parental rights have been terminated.

For foster adoption, one of the things that will affect timing is how quickly the birth parents relinquish their rights. If you choose a waiting child from one of our profiles or from your state’s waiting child list, then that means their parental rights have already been relinquished. States have different regulations regarding how soon you can adopt a foster child, so check with your adoption agency or caseworker to find out more about your state’s regulations concerning foster adoption.

How Long Does It Take to Adopt a Child Through International Adoption?

International adoption involves adopting a child overseas who usually resides in an orphanage or foster care home. The timing of your overseas adoption will depend, in a large part, on how quickly that country can process your dossier and give you a referral of a child. There are many variables that can affect or delay your international adoption, including the country’s regulations, as well as how many referrals they are processing at any given time.

If you would like to adopt a child overseas, the process for adoption is similar to domestic adoption. You will start with a home study where a caseworker who is licensed for international adoption will write up your family information, work history, health history, and complete a home visit. Be sure to go to an agency that is licensed to do adoptions in the country you’re hoping to adopt from and that they’re accredited with the Universal Accreditation Act, which gives them federal accreditation to do adoptions in that country.

Because the child is already in an orphanage or foster care system, you will not need to worry about parental rights being relinquished. Just like foster adoption and domestic adoption, there is no set time limit, and you will have to be patient as things can move very slowly in the adoption world.

Before you start the adoption process, you may want to ask how long it takes to adopt from that country. Agencies that work in specific countries typically have an idea of how long adoptions are taking at any given time. Know that projected times can change at any moment and delays also happen unexpectedly. Despite these unknown factors, your adoption agency is a good guide for how long adoptions typically take. This can give you an idea of whether it’s going to take one year or three years to adopt a child.

It’s good to find out ahead of time what countries have stable and consistent programs. At any point, countries can change their adoption programs and put your adoption paperwork on hold. Although this is unfortunate, in general, adoption agencies will steer you toward more consistent international programs, giving you the best chance at bringing home a child.

How Long Does It Take to Do a Home Study?

Another thing to keep in mind is that it does take time to do your home study. This is the first step in your adoption process after selecting what type of adoption you will be doing and what agency you will use. A home study is a detailed written report that can take anywhere from a few months to a year and is largely determined by how quickly you can get the paperwork, background checks, and other requirements done. In order to complete a home study, you will need to complete fingerprint background checks, medical forms, employer signatures, and family references. Since this is one of the few parts that you have some control over, being organized and working on it steadily is the key to accomplishing this quickly.

Another thing to keep in mind is that your caseworker will need to stop by for a home visit and meet with you for several interviews. How quickly that person can schedule those interviews and home visits is dependent on your caseworker and will also determine how quickly your home study gets completed. They will need time to write your home study and double-check that you have filled out all the correct forms and paperwork. If a caseworker is particularly busy that can delay the process of getting your home study done so that you can be matched with the birth mom or have your dossier sent to another country. The key here is being patient with those you work with from the adoption agency, understanding that they have limits to their time and that they are working with many potential adoptive parents.

How Long Does It Take to Adopt a Child When It Comes to Finalization?

Finalization can vary depending on the court system and the state you live in. Sometimes it only takes a few months to finalize, while other times it could take over a year. Be patient and follow up regularly with your lawyer when you’re waiting for a finalization date, as much of it is determined by how quickly the legal system can process your paperwork and schedule you for finalization.

Although there are several things you can do to speed up your adoption finalization, understand that much of it is out of your control. No matter how much you try to plan the timing of your adoption, there are parts of the adoption process that will be unpredictable or will not go according to plan. Accept that this, too, is part of the adoption journey and will, ultimately, lead you to the right child at the right time.

If you are struggling with the wait time, turn to others who understand the difficulty of the adoption wait. Other adoptive parents, as well as adoption professionals, can often provide a listening ear to help you vent your frustrations and concerns. Use this time for preparing for your new child by reading books and attending classes and seminars about parenting adoptive children and doing hobbies that take your mind off the adoption wait.

Although adoption is always a roller coaster ride of emotions, you don’t have to let the wait of the adoption discourage you. Work on the things you can control, like completing your home study and getting the word out about your adoption. You’ll find that much of adoption, like many things in life, is not in your control. When you hold your child in your arms, the wait of your adoption will have been worth it.

 

Visit Adoption.com’s photolisting page for children who are ready and waiting to find their forever families. For adoptive parents, please visit our Parent Profiles page where you can create an incredible adoption profile and connect directly with potential birth parents.

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Sara R. Ward

Sara R. Ward is a writer, adoption advocate, and mom to three children through adoption. Her passion is helping adoptive parents and those who struggle with infertility and grief on her blog PoetsandSaints. Sara writes about parenting, marriage, and faith and has a book coming out in 2019. Follow Sara on Facebook or Instagram @SaraRWard.


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